「王女ヨナ」 (Ōjo Yona)
If you’re looking for a comfy imperial love triangle, best go somewhere else.
If you came upon Yona without knowing anything about the premise, it’s possible you probably thought it was going to be a fairly standard shoujo romance set in a castle. If you did know about the premise (and picked up the hint from the opening scene), you’d know this is a fairly standard shoujo adventure instead. The first episode doesn’t touch on that aspect of the story except at the very beginning and the very end, but nevertheless it’s good to know what you’re getting into.
Instead, this premiere focuses on basic character building. Princess Yona (Saito Chiwa) begins the narrative by flashback, which introduces us to the country of Kouka and her former royal lifestyle. Yona is a spoiled and rather vapid young lady who is only interested in impressing her childhood crush, her cousin Soo-won (Kobayashi Yuusuke). Her father, King Il, is a peace-loving ruler whom Yona describes as a coward for his aversion to weaponry and whom spoils his daughter rotten. However, Il does not approve of Yona’s attraction to Soo-won and prohibits her from chasing after him. Yona’s retainer and childhood friend, Hak, and her other servants seem to support her however, and for a while it seems like Yona’s love might be requited after all. On her sixteenth birthday, Soo-won gives her an ornamental hair pin. Later that night, he kills her father.
Yona the princess isn’t the most interesting character around; she’s spoiled, she’s petty, and she seems to only care about her own happiness. However, it does make sense that she would be; she’s been given everything she’s ever wanted, and her only hardship was that her mother died. Naturally, her broken heart was healed by Soo-won’s kindness and she found herself falling for him. I find Yona to be more compelling after her father has died; at the moment she’s full of despair, but assuming the anime does it right, we’ll soon see more development on that front.
The plot twist is probably the hook that is going to attract most viewers, but for a manga reader like me the hook was in the visuals and production. The episode was very beautifully presented and animated, with lush colors and imagery. I especially loved the instrumental OP and I was glad to see that the first episode was paced quite well. For those of you confused by the foreign sounding names (rather than the usual Japanese ones), the story is set in a fantasy version of Korea (an interesting narrative decision in and of itself, considering the historical tensions between the two countries). I quite like the setting and the way it’s been presented in the premiere, and I hope the quality of the series isn’t diminished (or rushed) in the following episodes.
ED: 「夜」 (Yoru) by vistlip